Friday, August 27, 2010

Distractions In Finding The Narrow Gate

Catholic pastoral work requires the constant need to prepare homilies for the daily liturgy, a very satisfying duty that requires care and effort.  Priests  do not have a reputation as being gifted preachers.  Lay persons are often  bored by our sermons, and yet, as an integral part of the liturgy, they are meant to be both instructive and interesting. But, as we know, the Holy Spirit does not always make up for what we personally lack.

Preparing the homily is a serious obligation on the part of a priest, and few would ever face a congregation without some preparation. That would be  a serious dereliction of duty and should weigh heavy on a priest's conscience. In my experience, Korean priests do a good job in this area of pastoral care.

The reason for poorly conceived and delivered homilies may be that most of them do not address the interests and concerns of our Christians. Our concerns may not be their concerns, and here we have the dilemma.  Are the usual concerns of Christians the concerns they should have as followers of Jesus? If not, is it  our duty to bring this to their attention? The starting point for both priest and congregation may be to acknowledge where we are and move from there to where we should be.

Such a starting point was given by a priest whose homily in a recent Catholic Times examined three chronic diseases of our society. These are areas of life and thinking where we are unknowingly being tempted: the easy-going life, relativism, and utility.

The comfortable life is, of course, easy to like. And modern life in the economically advanced countries allows us a  degree of comfort which tempts many to spend a lifetime pursuing. But there are times when we have to do what is uncomfortable if we want to do what is right.

Relativism does away with absolute  values. There is no right or wrong way of doing something. "Doing it my way" replaces both a right or a wrong way.  It's like playing jazz; if it sounds good to you, it is good. There is a certain beauty to this way of thinking,  being free to express our individuality. When using these principles to guide our life, however, it is easily seen that the deeper dimensions of life are missed.

The utility principle can be said to govern our interest in results; process and means are not part of the equation. The end is what is important and the way it is achieved, we are told, is not important and should not concern us.

These infections that can  enter our life do not make it easy to find the narrow gate that Jesus talked about in the Gospel for Sunday. It is this narrow gate, contrary to what we may think, that will give us the joy  and peace of the kingdom that we entered at baptism. Is this not the aim of our homilies: to make us realize that we are members of God's kingdom here and now, and that our lives should be a  preparation for its fulfillment?

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